Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 5

In the previous installment we learned how Lars ended up with the club-level Henley and Grange Rams, while Ryan Kalish landed with the Canberra Cavalry — the ABL team Anderson had journeyed Down Under to join. In Part 5, Lars makes the jump to Australia’s top league, where multiple teams wanted him but only after they could find room for an import on the roster. Would the former big leaguer wait on the Aces or the Bite, or was wearing his third color of Sox a better option?

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Lars Anderson: “Looking back at my career, I reckoned I had run the gamut of professional baseball experiences and transactions, from the top of Mt. Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. I’ve been drafted, called up, sent down, designated for assignment, claimed off waivers, traded, released, entered free agency, signed free-agent deals. I thought that I had done it all, but while Gary and Ryan were visiting me in Adelaide, I found myself in a unfamiliar world: I was a relatively hot free-agent commodity in the midst of a modest bidding war.

“Look, it wasn’t like I was choosing between the eight-year, $150-million offer from the Yankees or the seven-year, $135-million one from the Cubs, but I was, for a brief moment, a big fish in a small pond. It felt good! And it was novel in one more small but significant way: I was acting as my own agent. That, however, wasn’t so great!

“Over the preceding weeks, the Adelaide Bite continually expressed their desire to sign me, as well as their frustration that they couldn’t due to their eight import roster spots already being filled. In essence, their hands were tied. I continued to let it be known that I wanted to play for them, but I also made it clear that, should another team show interest, I would entertain their offer, given that the whole point of coming to Australia was to play in the ABL.

“The week before Ryan’s arrival, the Bite were taking on the Melbourne Aces. Gary and I were hanging out at the field, slinging Birdman paraphernalia and whatnot, when Melbourne’s manager, John Deeble, approached me. John was the head scout of the Pacific Rim for the Red Sox while I was in their organization. Coincidentally, he now occupies the same job for the Dodgers, where I spent the 2015-16 seasons. So I keep following him around.

“We’re losing two imports before Christmas. Can you come hit with us tomorrow in the cage or is that too close to home? ‘Close to home’ was in reference to the fact that I had been practicing with the Bite and, as mentioned previously, had even signed a provisional contract with them. I reluctantly agreed, wishing there was another option. Hitting in the Bite cage for another team just felt weird, but Gary and I talked and we decided that it was not only kosher but necessary.

“The next day, I snuck into the cage with the Aces and took some swings off of John. Bite players, coaches, and front-office personnel were around, and I felt like I was being an unfaithful spouse or something! After the session, John said, ‘Mate, if you can wait until the end of December, we’ll get you a spot in Melbourne. I have two Japanese imports leaving and you can fill one of those spots.’ Easy, mate.

“A day or two later, I received messages from both the Bite manager as well as the GM, relaying that they had heard I’d been talking with Melbourne. I told them that was true, reiterating the point that I wished to stay in Adelaide if possible but that, if there was no spot open for me, I’d be forced to leave. They understood, and the GM said he was working on making room for me. Easy, mate.

“A couple days later, while watching the first game of Ryan’s series in Adelaide, I received a message from the Sydney Blue Sox manager, Tony ‘Feathers’ Harris. He informed me in clear terms that they had created a roster spot on their team and wanted me now.

“Tony’s offer was simple: ‘You’re going to play three out of four games. Two of them will be in left field and one will be at first base. I’ve talked to the other guys whose playing time will be affected, expressing to them that this move will make our club stronger, and they were on board. I needed them to be on board or I wouldn’t have made the deal. We’d like to have you this week for our road trip to Brisbane.’

“Of note: the ABL schedule is four games per week, either games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, or a game on Friday, a double-header Saturday, and a game on Sunday.
  
“Sydney is considered Australia’s answer to New York: it’s crowded, busy, expensive, and congested. The field is also an hour outside of town, a drastic change from my breezy 10-minute drive to the yard in Adelaide. But there was an opportunity in Sydney and their manager wanted me. My dealings with Adelaide and Melbourne had both been somewhat ambiguous and speculative, and I was attracted to his direct approach. After all, I am here to play baseball, and he was offering me a chance to do just that. Immediately.

“Now that I had an actual offer, I circled back with both Adelaide and Melbourne, seeing if they would make a counteroffer. Neither team could guarantee anything at the moment, only offering future possibilities. Encouraged by my conversations with Tony, the decision was easy: Sydney it was. So now I have played for the Red Sox, White Sox, and Blue Sox. I am a patriotic ‘sox’ wearer.

“The day after Ryan and Gary departed, I packed my bags, settled my debts, and bid farewell to Adelaide, my home for the previous five weeks. I was off to the big city once again, called up (once again!) to the (oh-so-relative) big leagues. We could split hairs and say, ‘Hey, you’re playing in front of a thousand drunk Australians instead of 40,00 drunk Bostonians, and you’re living with a host family instead of at a five-star hotel,’ but The Show is The Show, and in Australia, the ABL is The Show. So there.”

We hoped you liked reading Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 5 by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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